Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 28: Circadian Rhythms and the Witching Hour

The Witching Hour © by Miriam Escofet.

Legend has it that the witching hour is midnight. But in modern horror films and online lore, the so-called hour of the devil is variously pegged at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or 3:15 a.m. The Onion lampooned this superstition, proclaiming these hours to be unholy, but it is a common myth. Genesis 3:15 refers to the enmity between the serpent and woman; the phallic symbolism of the devil as serpent, combined with the temporal translation of the biblical reference, implies that this is the point when the estrangement between man and woman is greatest. 3 a.m. is supposedly the time when black masses are held, to invert the purported time of Christ's death at 3 p.m. Of course, a trinity is implied, in unholy and holy cases. A 2009 Eminem song, 3 a.m., related all these ideas to Millennial conspiracy theories about Freemasons and the Illuminati (see the video here).

In the lingo of modern investing, the witching hour flips the clock and refers to the hour between 3 p.m. EST when the bond market closes, and 4 p.m. EST when the stock market closes.

Is there anything to this superstition that is based in substantial physical fact, and not religious fears or the occult? Yes, in fact, there is.

Transition from the devil's hour to dawn: Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky, followed by Ave Maria by Franz Schubert in Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940) © Walt Disney Productions. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Superstitious people claim that 3 a.m. is the time when the wall between the spirit world and this world - between the lands of the dead and the living - is thinnest. That symbolism speaks in fairly literal terms to a number of conforming facts.  Kenneth Deel at Haunted America Tours asked staff at Houston Sleep Clinic to explain the phenomenon. They confirm that people's anxieties surface during REM sleep, and by three in the morning, that processing is at high pitch (also known as an acrophase). Waking up right at that point during REM processing is a sign of high stress and of the onset of depression:
Some individuals feel and state that when the real haunting's of everyday life are let loose upon us they will come to call upon you always on a frightening time of the dark of night. Everyday pressures build fear of losing a job, health, love issues or money woes.

But usually those that are awaking at 3 AM, or those that have noting significant going on in their lives at the time that could be bothering them. And in the course of awakening at this time over a period of a weeks or more that is when the real horror sets in. ... Many patients in sleep centers mention waking up after 2 or 3 hours of sleep and being wide awake.

Some doctors believe it is actually symptoms of the onset clinical depression, including early waking insomnia. "Waking up between 2 and 3 am every morning" is such a actual classic symptom.

3am is about time people with normal circadian rhythms hit the lowest metabolic/activity rate. Completely out in left field: is something similar to sleep apnea happing, where your heart rate or breathing rate becomes so low your body "panics" and hits the emergency button to wake you, possibly releasing Adrenalin or something, to get you breathing normally again?

And if it is a case of Chronic insomnia you might want to realize that it has been linked to a range of serious medical problems, from loss of concentration to high blood pressure so please seek a doctors care.
Thus, 3 a.m. is the lowest point of human circadian rhythm, given when most of us now go to sleep due to the presence of artificial lighting. In earlier eras, when people went to sleep more or less shortly after sunset, that point in the circadian rhythm would have been reached at midnight, not at 3 a.m.

For those who live in wild areas (then and now), the time between 3 and 5 a.m. is also called the 'hour of the wolf,' when wild animals lurk outside people's homes. It doesn't take much imagination to see how dark myths could originate from the experience of waking from a nightmare, and then hearing something big and very real, growling and snuffling outside your door or window!
That low point in the circadian rhythm is a source of fear not least because it is a time when our unconscious minds are confronting our greatest troubles and fears. It is also the time when we are most physically vulnerable. Body temperature, subject to diurnal variation, reaches its lowest point in the early hours of the morning. Human immune systems are at their lowest ebb between 3 and 5 a.m. For this reason, doctors warn against early morning workouts. People suffering from allergies may see a worsening of symptoms in this period and at dawn.  It is also the time when men are least potent sexually (really).

Early morning is the peak time for heart attacks and all other kinds of cardiovascular failure.  Ambulance, police and emergency room staff generally report an uptick in crime and accidents during these hours. Very ill people or accident victims are more likely to die at this time. In the case of the latter, a chance of survival can depend on what time of day the accident took place. If the body is injured early in the day, it has many more hours to attempt repair before the lowest point of strength in the early hours of the morning. However, if a person is injured in the evening, their chance of survival decreases. This was the case for Diana, Princess of Wales, who was alive upon late night transport to hospital, but who later died at 3 a.m. BST.

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